My Story in Three Acts - Act III: Reality
The journey thus far has been about how fear can hold us back from what we feel God is calling us to do. If you’ve ever experienced this, you will know how frustrating it is and how powerless this can make you feel. To know that God is calling you to something, to want to do it with your whole heart, but being unable to just take one step in that direction.
For me, I experienced this leading up to my decision to come to SBC. I had fears about letting go of predictable life and starting something totally new and unknown. My possible future at SBC seemed so vast, uncertain, and risky that I opted to stay where I was, even if I was left feeling unfulfilled.
By the grace of God, I summoned the courage to take the next step. And before I knew it, I was on the road in my ’06 Honda Civic (the best car ever made), leaving one small town for another, even smaller town.
This last act, the finale if you will, it’s time to face reality. How did all my fears play out when they left my head and joined the real world?
As always, my desire is that my story would resonate with even just one of you and that you would be inspired to face your fears and take the next right step in your journey.
1. Fear of Leaving Security and Familiarity
I was out of my comfort zone in the first couple months at SBC. It was a whole new world to get used to, and I often felt homesick for the people and places I loved. But as time went on, I began to get settled in and fell into a new rhythm of life. Both students and professors alike were welcoming and understanding which made the transition that much easier.
I remember in my first week I was at a loss when it came to managing homework. One day in our lounge area, I voiced my anxieties to a second-year student named Taylor (who is now a good friend). She was so warm and welcoming, empathized with my anxiety, and gave me some helpful tips.
By the end of the third week, as the whole student body returned from our annual All-College Retreat weekend, I remember thinking that it already felt like coming home. The place that had felt so foreign was becoming a new place of stability and safety.
2. Fear of Letting People Down
I’ve had to make the mental shift that my life is not necessarily going to play out like I thought it would. I’m not going to live in my hometown forever, and that’s okay. In times when this fear resurfaces, I remind myself that this is where God has called me in this season of my life.
3. Fear of Being Alone
My social anxiety, coupled with the fact that I’m a naturally reserved person, meant that I didn’t make friends fast. Not that people weren’t inviting and kind, but I just didn’t dare put myself out there. I figured I’d keep my head down and focus on school, even if deep down, I longed for connection.
But you can only keep your head down at SBC for so long. Living together in a community where you do everything together and people genuinely care about each other – it’s hard to escape unnoticed or uncared for.
Throughout the school year, God brought different people into my life, seemingly one at a time. On the first day of classes, I walked to class with Nicole. In November, Mercedes asked me to go out for coffee. In January, I sat next to Diana at a sports event.
The feeling of loneliness subsided as I began to connect with these amazing women who brought so much love and joy into my life. By the end of first year, I was no longer alone, and these connections were a major part in my decision to return to SBC the following year.
4. Fear of Not Belonging
If you remember, I was feeling this way because I imagined all the people at SBC would be perfect Christians and I didn’t measure up to this standard.
Getting to know the people at SBC helped with this so much. I realized that we are all broken people desiring to follow Jesus together. It has been a truly beautiful thing to be accepted in the SBC community. And not even despite my flaws, but because of them. If you think you’ve got flaws, you’ll fit right in. The unconditional acceptance and belonging I’ve experienced here has helped me understand God’s unconditional acceptance of me. By His grace and by placing my identity in Jesus, I will always belong to Him.
5. Fear of Failure
As my years at SBC have progressed, this fear has become more real believe it or not. In my first 2 years, I was scared of failure, but I was able to work hard enough that I never actually failed (according to my standards anyways). So, the fear stayed safely tucked away in the head.
However, in my 3rd and 4th year, with the lovely addition of COVID and some personal struggles, this fear of failure started becoming a reality. I was no longer able to live up to the measure of success I created for myself.
In the past year, I have really had to rethink how my definitions of success and failure align with Jesus’ definitions. What really seems to matter to Jesus is that we live in obedience. The results of obedience aren’t necessarily determining factors of whether we succeeded or failed. Sometimes things fail (according to the world’s standards), but we can be at peace knowing that we succeeded in doing what Jesus called us to do – follow Him in obedience to His call.
This has been a difficult shift for me to make, and if you wrestle with a fear of failure, I’d invite you to think about how you define success and what you base that definition on.
A Last Word on Fear
Though all my fears did to some extent come true, none of them got the best of me. I made it through. The experiences, friendships, and personal growth that has come because of facing these fears was worth it.
And that’s precisely why courage and faith become invaluable. “Six” by Sleeping at Last, the song that puts poetic language to my experience, ends on this note:
“Is it courage or faith to show up everyday? To trust that there will be light always waiting behind even the darkest of nights. No matter what, somehow we’ll be okay. Don’t be afraid.”
Courage and faith – they are tightly intertwined. They are the antidote to crippling fear.
So far, God has graced me with enough good experiences from facing fear that I’ve got just enough courage do the hard things until they get easier, and enough faith that He has, is, and will do amazing things through my steps of obedience. However small they may be.
And yet, I don’t have it all figured out. I still face fear on a regular basis and still cave to its seductive promises of false security. I’ve come to the realization that living in fear is just as scary, if not scarier, than facing fear. And so, I know I must commit my life to exploring how my faith can be an antidote to fear and inspire me towards courage.
I’m personally grateful to the many people in my life who have shared stories of faith, fear, loss, hope, joy, and suffering. These are the stories that help me believe that it’s possible for me to live this life of faith as well. Not perfectly, but faithfully.
My story of facing fear led me to SBC, a place where my fears were met with empathy and love. Not only that, but I was also given a safe, welcoming, and encouraging place to continue to face future fears with deeper confidence.
This place and these people have truly been the gift of a lifetime. I am eternally grateful.
If you believe that God is calling you to SBC and are being held back by fear of whatever variety, I empathize with you and encourage you to take that next step. Adventure awaits.
Judy is SBC’s student blogger for 2021-2022. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Ministry Leadership degree in April.